As online marketers we know what the internet loves to link to and share.
In no particular order it probably looks something like this - zombies, bacon, cats, consipiracy theory, controversy, drama... and erm sex. I spoke recently on this very topic at Think Visibility (incidentally - you can see my slide deck here). NB - I elected not to speak about sex in order to save both my own blushes and that of the audience.
The problem of course, is that whilst this sort of content (when done well) attracts lots of links and social shares, most companies have no desire to place this sort of content on their websites. It's just too far off-topic. There are of course exceptions - if you're selling Zombie Shopping Mall or Werewolf experiences then you're fine :)
I'll confess, here and now, to spending many hours musing over how I might be able to persuade my own clients to do content like this:
But they've never once gone for it, and to be honest, once I step out of my SEO shoes and walk a mile in theirs I completely understand why.
This sort of thing definitely gets links but it's off-brand message and for the vast majority of companies it's irrelevant.
If we're creating content, then we're wandering into the realms of content marketing country.
Content marketing has become a bit of a buzzword and you'd be forgiven for thinking that it's new. However, content marketing actually goes way back. Perhaps the first instance was in 1835 when the American Anti-Slavery Society (AAS) mailed anti-slavery newspapers to religious and civic leaders in the south. Then, in 1872 Aaron Montgomery Ward produced the first mail-order catalogue for his Montgomery Ward mail order business. Pan Am were doing in-flight magazines in the 1940s. I could go on, but you get the picture. The ways in which content marketing is delivered has changed, but content marketing isn't a new idea.
But, whether or not an idea is 'new', is frankly immaterial. I'm more concerned that, as online marketers, we're in danger of missing the point.
If we acknowledge that we want to do content marketing, and want to do it well, we need to know what it is. Here's a definition:
It’s the creation and sharing of content in order to attract, acquire and engage current and potential customers with the objective of driving profitable customer action.
Sounds nice, huh?
What about building links? Well, you can still create content with the above objective in mind and build links. There's likely to be a sweet spot between the content your customers want to engage with and content that will attract links.
This is something which we built for Simply Business - according to Open Site Explorer it has 411 links from 111 domains. And there's not a Zombie in sight.
Just to be clear, I'm not saying it's easy; and there are undoubtedly other types of zombie-related content which might have achieved an even higher yield in terms of sheer number of links. However; this content has something that other pop culture related content does not - It's genuinely useful to their customers.
It supports Simply Business's position as the small business champion. It also supports their wider content strategy. Plus, Simply Business use it for more than just link building. This content features in their email newsletters and it supports their social media strategy.
Elsewhere online we can see other companies doing similar things:
Salesforce have done a fantastic job with Social Success:
This content marketing play wasn't about link building at all - it was about lead generation. As a result of this content and the promotional campaign they saw 6,500 newsletter sign ups and 10,000 downloads of their e-book. You can read the full story in Kieran's SEOmoz post.
Then there's companies like ModCloth doing amazing things with their product pages & reviews:
Check out Kate's post for the full story.
I think the argument for content marketing online is perhaps at it's most persuasive when we start talking about conversion rate optimisation. Here's a great example from Conversion Rate Experts:
Some might argue that CRO isn't content marketing, but I think it's content marketing in it's purest form - it's using content (whether that might be email and / or page content) to drive more profitable customer action. In this instance, profitable customer action equalled $1 million.
So why does Content Marketing Pwn Zombies, Bacon & Cats?
Because our clients and bosses care about content that supports their brand position and makes them money far more than they care about links.
I think they're right to care about that stuff more; but I'd really like to know what you think.
I'd also love to hear about any other companies you think are making excellent use of content online, do let me know via the comments.
Image creditsZombies - http://www.xfirstaidkits.com/v/Zombie-Proof-Architecture/Zombie Apocolypse - http://www.cracked.com/article_15643_5-scientific-reasons-zombie-apocalypse-could-actually-happen.htmlBacon is better than true love - http://theoatmeal.com/comics/bacon_loveLolCat Bible - http://www.lolcatbible.com/index.php?title=Main_Page